Thursday, November 30, 2023

Announcing! Oh Baby! A Ricky Burns Mystery by C.K.Laurence and Jerry Lyons Now Out!


Check it out NOW

“Hey guys! Look at that. Breaking  news. They found the remains of that two-year-old girl that went  missing a few months ago. You know, the one where the mom didn’t bother to report her missing for a month.”  “Now there’s a case I wouldn’t want to have to deal with. She’s already been tried, found guilty and put to death in the court of public opinion,” Jay said. 
Ricky shook his head. “Oh, Mr. ‘it’s our job to get a not guilty verdict regardless,’ you’re quick enough to put a needle in  someone else’s client’s arm.”
“She’s not my client, and I wouldn’t want her to be. She’s someone else’s problem and that’s fine with me.”
“The mother wasn’t even the one who reported the baby  missing—the grandmother did. I don’t understand that at all. In fact, they had video of the baby’s mother dancing in a club after  the kid went missing. It sure seems to point to her, but if she did  it, you’d think she would have at least tried to cover for it somehow,” Collette added.
“Like I said,” Jay went on, “I’m glad she’s someone else’s problem. Where’s any doubt in that case, reasonable or otherwise?”
As if on cue, Jay’s phone rang. He answered on the first ring, nodded, said they’d be right there.
“That was fast,” Collette said.
“Yeah. They’re not going to make us wait on this one.” Jay signaled the waiter for the bill and Ricky stood. “I’m going to hit the head before we go.”
“We’ll wait for you, babe.” Collette smiled, hoping to brighten his mood, but he said he wished they wouldn’t and headed to the restroom.
“I’ve never seen him like this, Jay. He’s working himself into a real depression. I half hope they find him guilty for Ricky’s sake.”
“How about hoping he’s innocent for my sake, eh?”Jay had just finished paying the bill when Ricky returned. They stood before he could sit and headed back to the Courthouse.


A 2-year-old baby girl has disappeared! As soon as it is known, people come from near and far to help find and rescue the little child... But, those hunts were all in vain...and, only later, did they find the baby girl dead!

When a book spotlights one of the most horrendous abuses ever, it is difficult to say that I am excited to share my thoughts that I was happy it was written. The dynamic duo of C.K. Laurence and Jerry Lyons has once again provided what I consider will become a blockbuster! Two in the Head was the first in series, so if you missed my review, do take time to check it out!

Ricky Burns, the main character, had moved to Florida to become a Private Investigator after being a homicide detective in New York. He had at least one connection and found a home in a rented boat... And, then, he found work with a local defense lawyer. He had already completed his investigation and the court case was now in session.  But Ricky began to wonder if this "scumbag" was going to get off free... Of course, his boss in this case, Jay Kirschman, was quite happy that it was looking good for his client. And, indeed, he got off! Jay was happy; Ricky, not so much...

The adjustment to working for the defense, after having worked so many years to put the bad guy in jail was not sitting right in his head... Deals being made, without proper follow up--Ricky was having a hard time accepting that losing a case could ever be good, and especially for which he had, then, become a "hero..."  And after the trial was over, he began to ponder exactly what he should do next. He really didn't know whether he could continue to support defense lawyers. He liked Jay, but, more importantly, he had come to care very much for the paralegal working for Jay. What about her? 

Drinking and restless nights followed until one day, after not returning any contacts from Collette, she came to see if he was alright. Ricky was drunk and blew up! While it was not really about Collette, Ricky's major frustration in helping to keep a criminal from jail just could not be accepted... Ricky was just too much of a cop to be comfortable working on cases where the client might not be innocent. The  interaction with Collette was bad--very bad... But, at that time, he was planning to go back to New York where, at least, he would be near his family. He would find some place to work there....

And then a possible client came to his office. She was the grandmother of the baby who had been lost and found dead. She indicated that she had to help her daughter--that she knew she couldn't have done it. She begged, while at the same time admitting that she had no money to pay him for his work... But, once inside, he started to listen:

“Who is it?” he asked, slightly annoyed at having to wake up. "I need to speak to you,” said the voice outside. “I didn’t ask what you needed,” he groused, “I asked who’s there.”
“You don’t know me. My name is Catherine Martinelli. I need to talk to you about a case.”
“I’m not taking on any new cases, Ms. Martinelli. You’ll need to find another investigator.” “Please won’t you at least talk to me? This is a life-or-death matter, and you have a reputation for being honest, caring and a winner. I swear, it’s life or death—my daughter’s.”

“Sorry, lady. I’m out of the business. Don’t take it personally. In fact, I’m getting ready to leave Miami, so you need to go check out other investigators. There are plenty of good ones.”
“You don’t understand. They’ve arrested my only daughter and accused her of murdering her baby girl. They want to put her to death. Please at least talk to me.”

Ricky stood in front of the door, wanting to tell her to take a hike, but something about the desperation in her voice wouldn’t let him turn away. He opened the door. One look at the
woman told him he couldn’t just say no. She looked as though she hadn’t slept in days. Her eyes were red from crying, and she was as disheveled as he had been just a couple of days ago. “Come on in, Ms. Martinelli.”

She did so hesitantly. He led her to the sofa and told her to sit down. “I’m getting a cup of coffee. Looks like you could use one, too. Give me a minute.” “Don’t go to any trouble,” she said softly. “What trouble? I put a pod in the Keurig and voila! A cup of coffee appears. You look like you need it more than I do, and about now, that’s saying something.” “Thank you,” she whispered. “I think you’re right.” “How do you take it? “Just cream, please.” In two minutes, he showed up with two mugs, handed
her one and sat down in a chair across from her.

“I’m telling you,” he warned, “I’m not taking on any cases, and I am moving North within the next couple of weeks, but maybe I can direct you to someone who can help. Tell me what’s going on.”

“It’s my daughter. She’s made a lot of mistakes in her life—she's no saint for sure. She’s a liar, she’s mentally unstable, and has more issues than I have time to go through with you, but
she’s not a murderer, and she certainly didn’t kill her daughter.” “I’m in the dark here, Ms. Martinelli. Who’s accusing her of murder?”
“The police. They’ve arrested her. You must have seen  the news. My granddaughter went missing and last week they found her body. She was just two years old.”

Ricky remembered his last afternoon with Collette when she saw the news that the remains had been found. “Yes, I remember hearing something about it. Why are you so sure your daughter is innocent?” “I told you my daughter’s a liar, but it’s not her fault. Her whole life has been a lie and it’s taken twenty-two years to recognize that it started with me.”

“Let’s take this a little more slowly. I’m not following you.”“They arrested Jeri for murdering her baby Lena. It’s a mess. I don’t even know how to tell you so it will be clear
enough for you to understand. She didn’t report it when my granddaughter went missing. First she told me she was with a 
babysitter. Then, when we went to the house where the babysitter was supposed to be living, it was vacant. Jerri told me then that Lena had been ill and her father had taken her  somewhere for medical treatment. When I asked my husband about it, he told me to mind my own business, he had it under control. A month went by and I’d finally had enough so I went to the police to file a missing person report.

“Hold on a minute. It was a month before you filed a report?” “Yes, but I thought she was alive. I just wanted the police to help find her. My husband can be very ugly when he’s angry, and I’d pushed him as far as I knew I could before he’d get physical. I wasn’t getting any straight answers from him or my daughter. I asked my son if he knew anything about it and he said he didn’t have a clue, but if dad said to stay out of it, then I should stay out of it. But how can I stay out of it? I haven’t seen my granddaughter in I don’t even know how long, nobody even talks about her, so how can I just stay out of it. That’s why I filed the missing person report, and now my daughter is under arrest, sitting in a jail cell and facing the death penalty. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t filed that damned police report!”

“Calm down and take a couple of deep breaths, Ms. Martinelli. You’re blaming yourself for something that you have  no control over, and for sure, filing the missing person report has
nothing to do with her disappearance. I’m surprised you didn’t file it sooner, if anything.”

“Our house is a house of lies. I don’t know how I could have been so blind for so many years. I guess I was trying to protect myself from the truth—whatever that is. It’s like when I’m gardening. I pick up a rock and find families of bugs lying under it. Bugs. Crawling around everywhere. Living secret lives, carrying on and it never occurs to me that all that action is going on; but there it is, right under my face. And suddenly I realize that’s just what’s going on in my own life. I’m living in a house of lies! How could I be so stupid—living like this for so long?”

“Stop beating yourself up about this. It’s not your fault. Eventually people would start noticing the baby was missing, even without a missing person’s report. They had to have been
used to seeing her going in and out with your daughter and other members of your family. There had to have been some interaction with friends, relatives, whatever. Suddenly, she’s 
never around. No one’s talking to or about her. Your filing a report is the only natural thing about this. Jeri might be the only one blamed for it now, but that’s because she’s the mom. You’re not lying about it. You’ve just shown the concern that’s natural for a grandparent. It’s everyone else’s behavior that puzzles me. 
“Listen, I’m not leaving for another few days. Let me take a look into this. I have some friends in the police department that I can talk to, maybe dig up some inside information. Does Jeri have an attorney?” “A woman from the Public Defender’s office is handling 
her case.”

“A Public Defender can’t handle a death case.”


Burns first contact was with the PD. He was not only not impressed but found that she would not be willing to assist him, claiming they had their own investigators. This first step made his natural concern for justice become full-blown. You guessed it, He agreed to help at no cost...and then convinced Jay to take the case pro bono (with a deal made, of course). Collette was not so happy, still hurting from Ricky's brushoff. This interplay is an interesting and needed, in my opinion,  subplot that pulls readers from the reality which this book will get into...

Soon I started following the facts as they were revealed and began to...wonder... Something about all that he was discovering just did not add up! Except... if... there was some underlying secret(s) that, when, pulled into the public notice, would have to come out...

Laurence and Lyon make a dynamic duo who looks to just how any and every case, where even pre-judgments have been made about who is guilty, and investigates until a truly documented case can be "won." --because they are always on the "right" side, the winning side, and creates an unbelievably "believable" case that ensures that the guilty party(ies) will all be held accountable! How I wish that every such case could be handled by Laurence and Lyons! 

I'm not a true crime fan. It hits too close to reality for me. Somehow it is easier to explore just how cruelly people can treat each other... in fiction--even, if, perhaps, it is based on real-life cases. We have learned through today's headlines that a 10-year-old could not receive an abortion from incest in Ohio. And, in fact, she was taken to another state because Ohio politicians had prevented proper medical care...

I can't help but think of when I added my name to "Me-Too" when women first started speaking out... Yet, even as the young woman in the above video shares, many may have thought it was just part of the natural family environment...Until years later, finding out what really was happening...

And, that's why, I'm so excited to see a fictional accounting of what may, really, be happening over and over in America and in today's world... In fact, I've often wondered a very dark hypothesis...that those who vehemently opposed abortion, simply want to have new family "victims" available to them... Not possible? Those who have said "me too" now automatically think of that very possibility in ANY situation... 

Indeed, there are many writers working to spotlight one of the most, if not "the" most horrendous crimes now happening in today's world... Kudos to the writers! I finished reading this in one day, the pace is fast, the content definitely a page-turner. And, I've already learned of the title of the next in series!!! I CANNOT WAIT! 


Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Part II - L. A. Couriel Shares Epic Story of Religious Murder... The Pawnbroker from Covhila - A Jewish Tragedy...


I chose this video, simply because I wanted to provide the facts of the time period covered,  but that was presented in a manner that grabbed you (at least it grabbed me!) right from the beginning--In fact, this young presenter could very well be the main character in this Epic Novel by Lior Couriel... And, yes, it has all the facts...and even more to learn...


I look at this cover and can't help but wonder if this is an ancestor of the Author...To me, it is the perfect cover, the woman is obviously experiencing some type of emotional trauma, don't you think? Perhaps, she has ancestors who were actually part of the Inquisition...or the Holocaust...
No matter, which, I think...Murder is Still Murder!

Lisbon, 1574
Frigid mists converged as if in mutual desire. Where they met, a transparent droplet formed and thickened. A round belly of water swelled. Stretched across its delicate film were reflections, gray and cheerless. The drop ballooned like the innards of a hopeless drunk, and it tilted sideways. It crawled imperceptibly until, as if a restraining membrane had torn, it accelerated in the slide along its path atop a slanting plank of wood. The drop coursed unhindered down the plank. An unseen hand seemed to detach it from the wood’s greasy surface, and it glided through the air and shone like a black diamond. The cold liquid smashed against the left eyelid of Ginebra de Fonseca. She wiped the back of her hand across the wet eyelid, extending a dirty stripe from her eye onto her cheek. She sighed aloud, turned onto her side, and lay half dozing as she waited for her consciousness to be reclaimed by her senses.
When she found the strength to open her eyes, she saw that everything around her was unchanged. The damp and filthy cell, her forced home for the last fourteen months, continued emitting its clammy fetor no different from when she was dragged there in her ripped smock.
Ginebra was lying on a pile of spiky rags, and her flesh felt fiery despite the petrifying cold. Around her were the sounds of the cruelest prison in the kingdom of Portugal. Echoes of last night’s happenings were still a confusing swarm between her temples. Her body ached. Her wizened flesh, which once was considered the loveliest in all the reaches of the Estrela district, flooded with nausea as she remembered the night’s tortures.
A wave of miasma advanced from the corner of the cell and assaulted her. She sneezed, and a stream of red mucus burst from her nostrils. Her hand reflexively met it in a pointless gesture of wiping. Her groin was burning. She clenched her thighs and curled into a fetal position. The motion was painful. What could they still see in her at this point? What was there in her body to drive the jailers and torturers insane? They would go mad with animal rutting, grope her as they lowed with porcine lust, abuse her as if at home they had no women whose clean flesh was waiting to be kneaded in comfort.
A leech climbed out of the rumpled rags and bit her arm. Ginebra grabbed it, pulled it off her skin, and bit it vengefully, splitting it in two. She would fight back. She would fight them all. Judges, jailers, torturers, vermin. She would fight to the end. The damp leech wasn’t kosher; she spat out the half-worm, but it had dripped a thick, revolting liquid onto her tongue. If only she could similarly retaliate, she thought, against the men who had overseen her fate for hundreds of nights already. She knew it was imperative this night, too, that she summon up strength. She would have to be on her feet to secretly fill her saucer with the drops of water emerging from the wall. The drops that welled from that stony skin were her only consolation. They were also her most important discovery, accounting for her survival to that day.
With her fingers, Ginebra dug around a dark brick of the wall, and it loosened. Her fingers, with their broken nails, were aching. The fissure that she uncovered behind the brick was full of soft mold. She pressed the heel of her hand against the wall, forcing the tremor to stop. Drops of water pooled in the concavity of her furrowed palm. She felt the coolness penetrating the space between her fingers and lowered her head toward the water. A sharp pain crossed her back and made her regret the impulsive movement. She cautiously raised her hand, slightly parted her cracked lips, and lapped eagerly.
Then she positioned the saucer, the only item in her cell that could remind her of the world outside, and she waited. She was almost asleep before the bottom of the saucer was filled with a puddle big enough to drink from. Before replacing the brick, she sipped a little. Then she carefully moistened her fingers and gently massaged the skin of her face. Lastly, she dipped a finger into the mud on the floor and daubed around the brick’s edges to connect it to its fellows and arouse no suspicion. She looked up at the airhole. The night was dark, and her gaze wandered over the inky space. She understood that moonlight would only later appear through that opening high in the wall.
She had known the moon’s behavior since her childhood in Covilhã. An old neighbor, a hunched and wrinkled astronomer, had revealed the secret workings of the heavenly spheres to her. He taught her everything of value that she knew, even the cryptic paragraphs she learned by heart at his request before she comprehended them. The knowledge that she owed to him had steered the course of her life, the worse for her, to this pass.
But despite her tribulations in the hideous cell, she laid no blame on him. She cherished the memory of learning from him. Ginebra dozed off again. Dizzying visions cradled her fatigue and gradually dissipated it. More droplets fell from the ceiling, but without reawakening her. In the morning, there came a fly. The sense of fitful grazing on her arm woke her up. Ginebra shooed it away from the wound there that was refusing to heal. The insect winged upward, buzzed around her, and landed back on the same spot of split skin that it had landed on before. Once more, she flicked her hand, and the annoying buzz stopped only when the little legs stood again, slightly jittering, at the edge of the wound. She found it pleasant. Ginebra considered banishing the fly a third time but relented. How many creatures could be her friends here?
In her mind, a window opened onto distant memories. The astronomer arose among them, leaning back in a chair with his little paunch pressing against the wooden surface of the table in front of him. His face bore a broad smile. She was eleven when she first looked at the unsettling drawing that lay between them. In the center of a broad yellow parchment sat a fly the size of a bread roll, its lineaments drawn in brown ink. Each part of the fly’s body was depicted in fine detail, enclosed in what she could describe only as a kind of winged egg. From the fly’s head, long, thin coils arose at wings attached to the egg on the outside. They resembled a fly’s wings, being translucent and closely veined, but they appeared exceptionally large for the fly’s body. Behind the back of the egg, dim columns of smoke twisted away as if in a powerful wind. The egg was flying in the sky; she theorized, and burning. Beneath that bulbous object, dark shadows of cypress trees could be discerned, confidently and artfully drawn. The egg flew high.
Ginebra’s mouth opened in astonishment. The astronomer must be insane. He had lost his mind altogether. There are no such drawings in the world; if there are, they must surely be forbidden outright. She was familiar with the murals drawn in churches, but this didn’t even resemble a drawing. It was something distorted, abnormal, and even frightening. Could her neighbor be a sorcerer? This was dangerous; he was dangerous; what could she do? Notions whirled through her mind. She had to decide on a complex and intricate issue for the first time. Should she nod as if she understood, although she understood nothing? Or should she report him? But to whom? To her parents?
Because of her, would he be consigned to the colony of deranged old people outside the walls? Would he be stoned, burned, or tortured? She shuddered. The sensible course would be to get up right now and run for her life before she fell under the madness or, worse, under suspicion. She fidgeted where she sat, and her toes curled. In the struggle between being friends and fleeing yet another time from his room, the former won out.
He watched her as if he could hear her thoughts, and smiled again. “I knew you’d understand,” he said serenely, stroking his chin with one hand. He had a large head. Over the folds of his face, a thick mustache curled, like the horns of a bull, stretching out to the middle of his sunken cheeks. His nose was long, bending downward as if meant to shield his mustache and narrow lips. His eyes sparkled with cleverness, but she didn’t consider them attractive. His hair was black and seemed to retreat like foliage on a riverbank, hesitantly claiming the space above his high, flat forehead. One sharp, precise wrinkle split his forehead from side to side. She never could guess his age from his appearance. A whisper from inside herself told her that he was in his twilight years. High cheekbones gave him the aura of an ancient battler, but his cheeks’ dangling, wrinkled skin softened that arrogance to the point of disappearing.
Instead, an aged man’s abashed vulnerability emerged. Her girlish senses told her she could not betray his trust. It was up to her to mend the rapport between them. “What I don’t understand,” she said hesitantly, “is how the egg got to be above the beautiful cypress trees.” “The way birds do,” he winked. “Or more like the way flies do.” Her eyes softened, making her confusion visible. “What is the most striking difference,” he said, slightly slowing his speech as he tended to do when he wanted her to truly concentrate on his words, “between a bird and a fly?” “Their size?”
“You’re still the smartest girl inside the town walls,” he murmured tenderly, and wrinkles were scored at the corners of his eyes. “Also, weight.” “So, then what?” “The fly, despite its minuscule head and weight, can do exactly what the bird does, but it performs better. It leaps from its place like lightning from the sky, flies accurately, and returns precisely to where it was. No bird can do that. Not completely. Right?” “Yes. No. Right.” “So, it seems he possesses great intelligence despite his smallness, eh?” “Y-yes.” “And in proportion to his size, his intelligence is greater than the birds.” He nodded his head. “Yes, the fly’s intelligence is a wonder! So, I thought that if I could connect his intelligence to larger wings, his abilities would be amazing if they obeyed his intelligence. And if I set him inside a hollowed egg, which is strong, firm, and lightweight, he can accomplish marvels. He has tremendous understanding: A fly knows things with complete certainty. To him, the ways of the world appear with clarity that we can’t even imagine. He conducts himself with astounding precision — and there must be a way to extract some benefit from that.”
In her opinion, he was being unreasonable. “A fly, really? Who heard of anything like that? Wouldn’t it be heretical? I mean, mimicking the deeds of the angels? I think you’re making fun of the church murals.” 
The astronomer’s response was to burst into a strident, roaring laugh that quickly turned into a gurgling cough. She watched with concern as his body rocked from side to side. His health was so fickle. Mother was right about his days being numbered. “You funny little girl, this is science!” he exclaimed in choked exultation. He leaned forward and pounded the parchment with a forcefulness that dislodged her from her place. “Science! Exactly like the science of building the ships that cross the seven seas. Science!” She felt the need to reprove him.
“Does the church allow this kind of thinking?” “The church?” the old man echoed in surprise. “Why would you care about the church, little girl? Don’t you know who you are?”
His question seemed sincere to her. “Who I am? In what way?” He stayed silent. His face looked grave. The figure of the old man receded in her imagination. The echo of his words faded, and the shutters of memory closed with a clack...
The moldy cell re-inhabited her present, and its stench flooded her nostrils. In fellowship, Ginebra examined the fly that was resting on her arm. He stood exactly where he had positioned himself before, blissfully rubbing a pair of his legs. She deliberately slowed her breathing and tried painstakingly not to frighten him again.
With the astonishing picture of the fly, that day now seemed to her as if it had occurred in a different reality. A reality formulated far from Lisbon, the capital city that had now thrust Ginebra’s very existence into mortal danger.

She was a young girl of 11, much like the young girl appearing in the video... and, perhaps, just a little of me, although I would never have known of an ancestry of such pain... Really? When I asked my mother, with an ancestry on both sides of my parents, that was German, all she would state quickly was that I was an American... Obviously my ancestors were part of the race that murdered Jews and anybody else who was caught in the horrible war that was just ending as I was born... But I was not to learn of that time... It was years before I started learning of our history...

The book opens in Lisbon in the year, 1574, She had been jailed by the Inquisitor, who would spend hours trying to discover exactly what she knew...and, also, to force her declaration of herself a "believer..." Or not... and, thus, put to death... I have asked and received permission from the author to share more excerpts from this poignant tragedy... Couriel is such a wonderful storyteller that he flows easily between and among the various settings, knowing, perhaps, that the horror presented needed to be softened, by not dwelling on the horrid details of the life one Jewish girl was made to endure on the basis of religion. The Religion of the Catholic Church in this case, as a ruling duo forced a state religion and then chose to spread their religious terror...

Ginebra, was intellectually advanced, so much so that, on the few times she had interacted with her  neighbor, he began to notice her speech, her curiosity, and, perhaps, an above-normal intelligence... He was a scientist... inventor... astronomer and yet very personable. Perhaps, he even saw in her somebody who could be a student--an individual with whom he could "deposit" much of his gathered intelligence? And, perhaps, he knew that, someday, "they" would come for him... And would succeed this time in stealing one of his most important inventions--the loxodrome! For, at that time, new inventions that would help traders move from country to country via water was a very important contribution for the world...

Indeed, that is exactly what happened. But, it was much longer before it did. In the meantime, Genebra became his student--but nobody knew it. The book does not explain why her neighbor suggested that they enter into a conspiracy. But, seeing her curiosity, he thought she might agree to one. Thus, she was hired to "clean his house" and, instead, little by little she began to learn how to use the stars to navigate. Alone, or with her mentor, during the night she would roam the nearby hills and valleys learning the names of each star system and then adding what she had been taught to use the sky's locations as a means of improving methods of her travel--an important skill that was to later lead to her being able to escape from the dungeon and all the emotional, mental and physical abuses she had endured for unending months... Basic mathematical skills were added and soon she was able to provide direct support to her father's business as a pawnbroker... 

And when he was scheduled to go on a business trip, which resulted in his never returning, she took over the business and successfully worked to keep it running, even though she was not out of her teens at the time... Also, as expected, the professor was soon taken, together with most of his papers and various inventions in stages of development. Readers learn that he, too, had been taken by the Inquisitor... Soon after Genebra was taken, we learn that a neighbor had hinted to church officials that she should be looked at--that she was continuing the rituals of her earlier religion. Genebra was from the Jewish background and had created a loaf of bread using the patterns used by those practicing a Jewish life. the pawnshop had been taken over and ransacked... family scattered...

The video above, for those who had not known much about the details of the Inquisition, has covered what she must have faced, yet she was able to live. Even the Inquisitor became interested in her, recognizing her strength, her presence, even in extreme distress, and, so, he started considering just how she could be "used" for his own personal benefit... After all, he was free to, more or less, do anything he really wanted with her. Why shouldn't he explore profitable possibilities...

So one day, bringing her into the room where she was normally interrogated, he told her that he would be bringing somebody to see her--somebody important, and warned be careful how she acted. The man who, when he first set eyes on her, then soon,  began to question her background--wanting to know if she was worthy of him...

Based upon the response of the Inquisitor, she was brought to a partially destroyed castle where a small harem had been created for this man's private  dalliances. But... contrary to what happened with all of the other women there, Genebra was never touched, even on those nights where she was "scheduled" for his full attention...

Shall I tell you that this is a happy ever after story from there on? Truly, that would indeed be fiction, would it not? For there were two major activities controlling the world at that time. The Catholic Church had begun to act on behalf of the King and Queen of Spain, who had mandated that the Christian faith become the State Religion...using any means necessary to ensure this conversion of all residents.
But, in small ways, which were not even noticeable to Genebra, those who wished to do harm to the family, used one small traditional action that would later become her death sentence...

Except that the young man who came to look upon Genebra's beauty was the new, young king of Portugal. And the beautiful Genebra had captured the King's heart, even though he wasn't quite sure that she should become His Queen... For one thing, he was both pleased and somewhat intimidated by her obvious intelligence and scientific knowledge--even knowing mathematics was beyond most people at that time. Yet, being able to gain more than sex from a woman certainly was enticing. They were together most of the time, but never seen as acting in any sexual manner...

In the end, it was a little bit of ego of both of these young people who were simply caught in a world of madness when freedom to believe what they wanted was arbitrarily taken away. But more, it was the conniving of those peripherally knowledgeable of what was happening, that resulted in an ending that is, quite simply, beyond imagination, yet, quite specifically, the only conclusion that could have happened to this fated couple. A Jewish Tragedy...

The average religious member Affected by Religion

Ukraine Democracy Attacked by 
Authoritarian Communist Country President

Hamas Backed by Religious Leaders of Iran 
Goal to kill all Jews
Religious leader from Israel PM Incited by Hamas
Swears to Destroy Hamas, with Palestinians Civilians as Collateral War Damage?
Palestinians' majority identifies as Sunni Muslims

Insurrection Incited By Former President Sponsored by Evangelical Christians and leaders and Several Militia groups and republican party...

Jesus Freak rejects hypocrisy of Christian Religion
I am a Jesus Freak

From 1574 to Nearly 2024...
What has Religion Accomplished?
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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Second Novel by L. A. Couriel Shares Epic Story... The Pawnbroker from Covhila - A Jewish Tragedy... Part I - An Excerpt...

 With permission of the author, I present a beautifully written excerpt from the latest Epic Novel by L. A. Couriel! Review Follows...

Outside Lisbon, the paleness of the morning star provided them with a welcome veil of anonymity. Ginebra was puzzled that no carriage, nor even a wagon, was at their service. But Sebastian believed Ginebra would better withstand the jostling of a long journey on a horse of her own rather than being helplessly bumped about in a springless carriage. He chose the horse for her — a brown one, reasonably obedient, calm-tempered, and not inclined to break into a pointless gallop. The horse had a habit of frequently swiveling his ears, which brought bursts of giggling from Ginebra. An early consequence of Sebastian’s choice was a thoroughly sore backside, but with time she came to appreciate the advisability of riding horseback. 
On the third day, she even dared to change from ladylike sidesaddle riding to riding astride like one of the men. She settled her feet into the stirrups and even tried to speed the horse up by digging the spurs into the sides of its bulging belly. Sebastian didn’t conceal his enjoyment of the sight. After she’d set out on the horse, he circled her and carefully arranged the drape of her clothing so that from a distance the shape of her body didn’t look feminine at all. They rode during daylight, and each evening they made camp. They didn’t stop in at taverns or farmhouses, despite the lure of a comfortable bed. Sebastian didn’t wish to be identified as the king. And for that reason, he covered himself from head to toe in a faded travel cloak. To any chance observer, their little convoy looked poor, awkward, and quite unexceptional. When they halted, they went to the effort of quickly erecting a tightly closed little tent for Ginebra, but the rest of them slept on the ground, covered by broad sheets of canvas. They skillfully lit a fire with coals left over from the night before and set a heavy iron pot of satiating stew on the fire. As Sebastian slept on the hard ground, he rested his head on the edge of his stiff leather saddle and his bodyguards, trained and responsive, surrounded him. Up to this point, he respected her honor with the utmost courtliness. 
Her rustic etiquette was rudimentary, nothing to compare to the manners of the women of Lisbon’s court, but it didn’t prevent him from treating her like the highest nobility. Her appreciation for him grew. His ability to adorn their relations with layers of varied ceremony impressed and touched her. The contrast between the wild and licentious young man of the Penha de França and the king bent over his saddle, weighed down with deliberations, aroused her curiosity. He’s doing his best for me, she thought. 
The bodyguards plucked at a couple of swollen-looking citole guitars and sang sad songs that sent spiraling tremors of sweetness down her back. They sang about far-off lands and brave sailors, broad-hipped and sharp-tongued Portuguese women, taciturn Brazilian women who sold their bodies, and chaste young maidens. There were melancholy ballads along with songs of praise for those fated to stay behind at the port and dampen their robes with tears as they watched the sea join the sky in the distance to become the cruel horizon that swallowed their husbands away from them. They sang about the forces of the sea, which never rest for a moment and which prey on the ships that have foundered and sunk to the bottom. They described the poor drowned sailors in the abyss of darkness, whose hearts still repeat their lovers’ names. They were careful of their language, and when the authentic songs described debauchery, they held back — even devising alternative lines with suitable rhymes and meter. Those improvisations evoked volleys of loud laughter and meaningful winks. Ginebra enjoyed the jolly atmosphere and the restrained mischievousness. The sad songs were entirely different from those she’d learned in the hills of the Estrela. She tried to repeat the words to herself and memorize the tunes, although they moistened her eyes with melancholy. She glanced furtively at the king, who was putting his heart into his singing, and tried to hide her sadness. Sebastian’s eyes met hers. “Any questions?” he asked in a challenging, soldierly voice. 
She reddened all over and tried to think fast. Luckily it’s dark, she said to herself, and answered hurriedly: “I do have a question. About the peacocks — why is the castle overrun with so many peacocks?” He broke out in mad, childish laughter and lobbed a smooth pebble into the darkness. His head sank between his shoulders. “They belonged to my father, Prince João. His father, King João the Third — that’s my grandfather — saw that he liked peacocks, so he had the navy bring him lots of them from all over the world. That’s why there are different kinds of peacocks at the castle. When my father died, I was seven, and that’s what he left me. It’s when my grandpa died that I inherited the empire.” He choked up briefly. “Out in Covilhã, don’t they teach that?” The fourth day of the trip was hazy and dingy. The air was full of grayish grit. The sun looked like a moon, even at midday. The animals slumped, and their walk had no energy, as if they’d jointly decided to demonstrate their dissatisfaction. 
The travelers wrapped themselves in their cloaks and hunched their shoulders, and the day’s ride proceeded sluggishly. They passed by shepherdesses in crude gray cloaks. The shepherdesses carried crooks long as spears and batted the rocks with their tips. The clacking noise spread across the sound of the sheep bells. Clusters of unkempt sheep stolidly grazed the flat plain’s grass, ignoring the long-haired sheepdogs that had also lost all desire to exhibit more than minimal verve. Ginebra peered at them through the slits of her head-covering and remembered when she would confidently, energetically lead her modest flock on the Estrela toward cool springs of water among the rocky surfaces. 
The next day, they rode through the air that a rolling downpour had cleansed in advance of them, and their horses trod carefully in the mud. The trail ended at the broad yard of an abandoned farm. The farm was fenced as if its owners had forsaken it only a few days before. An abandoned wooden cart stood close to the gate, its shaft disconnected and one wheel broken. One of the bodyguards removed a sign that had been fixed to a post, and he remarked — softly so that the king wouldn’t hear — that the tax authorities or Inquisition had confiscated this farm. 
Ginebra felt a brief whimper pass across her heart, digging a furrow of painful memory. Sebastian looked at her, and to her surprise, the furrow quickly mended. Two roving dogs were firmly put to flight. The travelers scattered straw from the barn around the area and readied themselves for sleeping on the ground at the deserted farm. This time Ginebra had the courage to lie outside the tent, like just another of the riders, and she let her back drop onto a thick woolen rug. She patted her skirts smooth, pulled them tight around her legs, covered herself with a heavy cloak against the chill, and laid her head on a bundle unloaded from the back of one of the horses. The bundle had a smell made up of grain, horse sweat, hyssop, and cow leather. She liked the blend. The bundle’s unique smell mixed with the smells of earth that rose in waves, released upward with the stored heat of the land. 
Sebastian was dozing not far from her. His breathing quickly became part of the night noises. Crickets or cicadas? The rasping was far away, and, uncharacteristically, she found the source difficult to recognize. You’re changing, her heart told her. Genuinely changing. The night sky was clear. The bodyguards stayed awake; they were sitting around the fire. Merry flames cracked thick branches, and she felt supreme freedom flowing in her veins. Around her, wondering gazes swept the starry sky, and there were unfounded, slightly facetious declarations of the prominent stars’ exact names. Ginebra contented herself with a noncommittal murmur when they were right and smiled under the veil of the darkness when they weren’t. 
She thought it wouldn’t be proper to share the secret that enabled her to precisely identify the complex structures on the celestial map and fluently read out the names of three dozen constellations. Ginebra tried to be as useful to the travelers as she could be: She drew water from wells and springs, she rinsed the dust of the roads off vegetables, she climbed trees to pick fruit, and she energetically gathered firewood. From time to time, she adorned her lapel with a nice chrysanthemum that she’d picked. The loyal bodyguards peeked at her covertly from atop their horses, but they didn’t dare speak to her. 
She learned to tell them apart. Three were rough-looking veterans. Tomás, Hector, and Tiago were wrinkly and whiskery, and it was when they smiled that they looked their cruelest. All three alternated between chewing and smoking crude, fragrant tobacco leaves, which were the latest fashion among the more prosperous circles in the Iberian Peninsula. The smell of the smoke was far-reaching, and Ginebra clenched her nose against it. The innovation seemed to have addicted them. Their bag of brown leaves bulged, testifying that they enjoyed a plentiful supply thanks to their connections at court. Trying to be considerate, they spat only away from her direction. The fourth of them, João, seemed to be Sebastian’s age but must have been older. He didn’t smoke, and he was fairly good-looking. His cheeks were smooth as a boy’s, with just a thin plume of hair descending the jaw and thickening around the chin as if to point at the cross, the color of greenish copper, hanging very close to his throat. His hair was long and brown, his eyes between brown and green, his robe and broad- brimmed hat a greenish brown, and his delicate eyebrows sparse and brown. Even his skin inclined toward the color of a mature tree’s foliage. 
If he were lying on the ground, I could step on him by mistake, Ginebra thought, and she smiled to herself. He, on the other hand, never smiled at all, and instead of conversing with his fellows, he made do with nodding. He was a master archer, and his bow rocked tranquilly in a case next to his saddle. From time to time, he would lithely and silently straighten his long body and then quickly, with undular but purposeful movements, strike an arrow into a hare, rabbit, or wild duck that happened along. 
Then he let his cheering comrades skin, or pluck, the prey. Thus, he provided them with a variety of fresh food for the evening’s stew. After each kill, he crossed himself duteously; and Ginebra guessed that his gentle soul was requesting absolution. When she shared that perception with Sebastian, he corrected her: “That’s not an apology. It’s a wish. João wishes his next shot to be accurate too, whether it’s at an animal or at a man.” 
One evening they were all sitting around the crackling coals as a rabbit was being roasted with slow care. Ginebra was hungry and eager to see the tender meat parceled into the bowls. When the pieces of steaming flesh were finally distributed, she tried hard — despite her growling stomach — not to look too avid. But she revealed her appetite by her obviously ravenous way of digging her fork in. Sebastian didn’t hide his enjoyment of the sight, and he gave out with a laugh. “Is something funny?” she challenged. “You are. You have the manners of a pretentious pauper. Go on and tear into it with your hands, country girl!” Sebastian laughed. 
She set the bowl aside and went at him with her fists. He didn’t try to avoid her but merely rolled backward and maneuvered to save the content of his plate while laughing harder at the attack. When she understood what a spectacle she’d presented, she started laughing herself, stopped her assault, and sat back down. Remember your place, she reminded herself silently. She realized the bodyguards had been sitting upright all the time, with their expressions tense and their hands on the hilts of their swords. João also had an eye on the neckline of her robe. 
The next day, she noticed João was distinctly slumping as he rode, as if he’d fallen asleep in the saddle. But João was actually scanning his surroundings all the time from the corner of his eye. He made sure that his hat shadowed his face. But once, when a sunbeam poured across the shadow, she caught a bold, unseemly gaze again, sizing up her body. 
Caught in his misbehavior, João casually turned his eyes ahead, toward Sebastian’s back. Did João covet her, or did he suspect she intended to escape? She looked fearfully at the quiver’s diminishing load of arrows. That young man could hit her at a distance without bothering to dismount. He was the most dangerous of them. 
Coimbra appeared on the horizon to their right, with its many turrets and church spires. She hadn’t anticipated the sight of the city. Silly girl. Of course, if they were bound north, Coimbra would pop up ahead sooner or later. The desire pulsed inside her, for a moment, to spur the horse and gallop to her sister Isabel’s house. But it was impossible, of course. As far as her sister knew, Ginebra was under arrest in Lisbon, in a cell ten cubits underground, suffering the tortures of the Inquisition. Ginebra couldn’t reveal her current circumstances to Isabel. 
This new life allowed for no contact with the old one. If they did meet, she would have to explain that she was among a party of secret travelers led by the king of Portugal. What an unconvincing fantasy. Most likely, they’d think she was out of her mind. The poor girl escaped jail, and she’s dangerously delusional. No evidence to support her story. Even if she slipped away from the entourage and knocked at the gate of the house, and luckily someone opened it before daylight and someone believed her, then it would be all the worse because they’d understand right away that she was a concubine. It was all over her face. And worse yet, she was a paid escort — a royal palace whore. No, making contact was impossible. That life was dead. 
“Am I a whore?” thought Ginebra. How could that be when the king hasn’t even touched me? The confusion and the contradiction drove her to distraction. Her thoughts rebalanced only when the hammering of the church bells slipped past them and hit at her from the rear. They were leaving the city behind. Ginebra wept tearlessly into the roughness of her travel scarf. She hoped the jostling from the horse’s gait obscured her silenced sobs. 
Suddenly she saw that Sebastian was riding close by her side and watching her. How long had he been there? “… I was saying you must have noticed that the farther north we go, the fewer houses have tile fronts. Right?” 
“Oh. Yes. Why?” “So instead of tiles with complicated, colorful decorations, there’s a lot more granite with mixed salt-and-pepper colors or just a layer of simple, colorful plaster, isn’t there?” “True.” “And do you know why?” Ginebra didn’t answer, but she might have voiced some sound because Sebastian immediately followed up: “The ceramic tiles, which Lisbon is famous for, play an important role in protecting the houses. They’re shields against the rain in the hot southern region, but a little water can seep in because of the spaces between them. Here in the north, the winter is cold, and the water seeping into the cracks freezes into ice. The ice widens the cracks, it breaks the hold of the tiles on the wall, and the tiles fall off. You’re from the north, and you didn’t know that?” 
He was basking in his knowledge. No, she hadn’t known. She shook her head and politely thanked him for the explanation. Then she decided to play along further. “You had good teachers,” she concluded, and his young face glowed. For once, he’d managed to impress her with what he knew. 
The old astronomer floated before her eyes, with his deep explanations of everything everywhere. The contrast between the two people, the impulsive young man and the deliberative astronomer, was like characters in a play, and it made her burst out in chiming laughter. Sebastian looked at her in surprise and wound up laughing without understanding why. But as she laughed, she couldn’t miss the way João the archer moved his eyes, tracking her alertly. Her belly tightened. 
The dusk was long-lasting. They camped near a clean, bubbling spring. Their rocky nook reminded her of her days of freedom in the hills, and her heart was pained. She stood in the tent, removed her sweat-soaked underclothing, and bundled it up. Then she put on a roomy robe, a bit haphazardly, and left the tent, closing the flap with as much noise as the thick cloth could produce and managing to draw the archer’s attention. 
She concealed the little bundle, but not fully. Then she walked a hundred paces away from the tent and descended to the spring. The water rinsed her calves with pleasant coolness and licked her thighs. For a moment, she remembered how Soraya’s son would romp in the spring waters of the palace harem’s Garden of Eden. She bent over, with a distinct absence of modesty, and scattered the contents of the bundle. With a short stick, she dunked the undergarments into the water; and she lengthily scrubbed and rinsed them in the spring water. From the corner of her eye, she saw that her privacy was being infringed. Not just once, but doubly. The closer figure was João. 
A plot began to buzz into existence between her temples. She pretended not to notice anything. She rinsed and pounded her underclothes well, like a trained laundress. Then she scrupulously wrung them out and hung them as high as she could on the branches of an oak tree. Her stretching exposed more than a bit of her thighs and neck. Water dripped to the ground and was trapped in the channels of tiny rivulets. She stepped back and tilted her head to the side, her hands on her hips, as if considering whether to leave everything to dry thoroughly. Then she turned and started back toward the camp. 
A whooshing hiss made her quickly look over her shoulder. She gave a hop, shocked at what she saw. Sebastian was standing by the oak — erect, indignant, and immovable. His body was turned at the end of a spin, and both his hands held a sword still poised where its arc had finished. The body of João the archer still stood on its feet, his hands holding her underwear to his chest but with no head to instruct them further. Only after his head stopped rolling on the ground did his entire body slowly list and collapse. Her profaned undergarments fell and scattered in a pool of blood. Inside her chest, a moment before she fainted onto the high-grown turf, she felt her heart give the special beat that the autocrat experiences from the supreme satisfaction of exercising absolute power. That heartbeat exploded inside her with an imperial bloodlust that was unfamiliar and embarrassing but immeasurably pleasant. 
No one bothered digging a grave for the deceased. The brawny men repositioned his head at his shoulders, wordlessly covered him with layers of rough rocks from the field, and stood quietly by the heap. Tomás spat and crossed himself in alternation, scratched his arm, dragged his sleeve across his nose. and finally pronounced a short eulogy: “Here lies a lunkhead who didn’t know his place in this world. May he find peace in God’s heaven. Thank you for leaving more wine in the barrel for each of us. Ptui.” 
The horse that was relieved of its rider joined the other pack animals, and the next day bundles were quietly transferred onto it from the others to even the load. The riding recommenced. Now Ginebra had seen three dead bodies in her life, leaving her days in the prison aside, and they all had died violent deaths for reasons relating somehow to her. She mused on Jorge, Nicolau, and João. As the travelers proceeded unaccompanied by João, they were obliged to trap their food. Ginebra participated in the gallop of horses. She wielded a net with increasing skill and caught a few plump partridges. They also caught a swan, and he was gleefully added to the seething pan. His meat turned out to be too stringy for her taste, and despite her sincere efforts, she couldn’t finish her portion. João was no longer mentioned. 
The next day, they crossed the Douro River and reached Oporto at the approach of dusk, as the king had planned. No one suspected that the dust-covered travelers with their few pack horses and modest baggage were the ruler of the empire, his concubine, and his retinue. They entered the gate unobtrusively, with the eldest of the escort presenting himself to the city’s yawning guardsmen as the leader of the small convoy. 
Carrying no commercial cargo, they aroused no interest among the voluble tax collectors and weren’t told to pass through the customs house. All the while, Sebastian was covered from head to toe; only his eyes showed through slits torn in his hood. Ginebra confided her astonishment. How could they fail to recognize their sovereign? And what if it was suddenly necessary that they recognize him and obey his orders? 
Sebastian withdrew his fist from his robes. “See this? The royal signet ring! If I need to show my seal, it will be honored, and I’ll receive all my royal privileges and consideration.” Ginebra still wasn’t convinced. And as a pawnbroker, she was curious: “But who’s to say it isn’t counterfeit?” The king explained he had guarded against that. He’d long ago appointed twelve keepers of the seal all across Portugal. They knew the seal to the smallest detail. In any case of doubt, they were called, and they examined the imprint in question. If necessary, they could testify before municipal or district judges of the appropriate jurisdiction. “No one is more trustworthy,” Sebastian added with genuine pride. 
She recalled João, who betrayed his trust and was summarily beheaded beside the spring as punishment, and she shuddered. Sebastian kept his promise. Their horses trod the city streets and stepped gingerly through the steep passages of the Miragaia neighborhood leading to the riverside. Near sunset, the furnace of the sun blazed at them like molten gold and dazzled Ginebra. Its fire stretched across the river’s bend to the blackness of the ocean. The river filled with dark, vibrating shadows and with sparks of flame. Its water pulsed like the neck artery of a dying giant, and it darkened and blackened until it burst like a ripe golden fruit. 
She had to shield her eyes. The glare of the sun, and its twin that danced on the river, splashed into her pupils and stung them into contraction. The buildings, the riverbank, the sky, everything turned into flowing, swirling gold, and into darkness. A nebulous memory visited her. Is this how Jerusalem looks? 
Her vision of the Holy City included cliffs, boulders, and scattered spots of shrubbery. A golden gleam radiated from its streets. Broad, ripe fields of yellowish grain extended around it, adorned by many olive groves. Just like Oporto. She turned to Sebastian. “Is there a river in Jerusalem?” “If there isn’t,” the young king answered readily, “I’ll dig you one!” 
They awoke at dawn in the little camp they’d pitched on the northern bank. Opposite them, across the river, rose the heavy shadows of great stone buildings whose roofs were shingled with terracotta. On the southern bank, a light-colored road connected the piers of the Vila Nova de Gaiaon, where a little procession of wagons was moving. Along the river to their right, from the direction of the salty ocean, a great, pink, solid-looking divine finger slipped along the water. Ginebra blinked in surprise; she had never seen a cloud at such a diagonal tilt before. The celestial finger advanced quickly from the mouth of the river into the city, stretching and lengthening from its base to point heavenward. A light wind was blowing, and the finger began to hurry toward the deep reaches of the river’s channel in a mighty rebuke against the colorful toy boats and houses below. 
“It’s a warning,” she said. “It’s a bad omen. Our plan isn’t going to work.” “Nonsense. It’s an illusion,” Sebastian hurried to reassure her. “Because the river turns sharply, the cloud looks out of balance. Just an illusion! Like all this world — an illusion of the moment! Here, look. It’s already disappearing.” He spoke confidently, but his undersized arm was shaking and she turned her eyes away from it. Shallow beaches spread lazily along the north bank of the Douro. Yellow dunes touched the gray stone piers that marked the edge of the built-up city. The workshops and spacious yards of the shipbuilders divided the flat mounds among themselves. There was a great bustle in the royal shipyards. Enormous beams of wood, looking silvery and wind-eaten, filled the yards with a warp and weft of scaffolding. The scaffolding stretched from the waterline to the highest platform. 
Rosy skeletons for more than a dozen ships rested on the scaffolding. Many skilled workers and their apprentices labored around them. Some of the skeletons would turn into riverboats for shipping barrels of wine from deep inside the continent, but most of them would be military galleons of impressive size. Ginebra whistled with wonder at the sight of the high-reaching masts. At the tops of the masts — an altitude of six stories at least — long, colorful triangular banners flapped in the wind. She could easily picture such a monumental creation plowing the waves, its rigging strained to the limit, its sails pushing faster and faster, its prow beating and slicing the waves with one wallop after another. 
A blush of excitement spread over her cheeks. She turned to Sebastian. Her eyes sparkled, and he smiled back in satisfaction. He scanned the masts with a scrutinizing gaze and said nothing. She noticed that the ends of the wooden beams were submerged in the river. Supplies of lumber were sitting in perfect order. She ran her eyes appreciatively over the enormous bands of wood, meticulously sawn. Carpenters did the work of turning them into narrow, planed boards. Others hammered gigantic nails and bent both ends of long, flat metal strips. “That’s the prow,” Sebastian explained, indicating a juncture of curves. Ginebra was fascinated. Her eyes caressed the body of the embryonic ship. Her nose caught a mixture of sharp smells: fresh wood, paint, caulk, and sap. She enjoyed seeing the precise fitting of wood to wood. His eyes followed hers. “Not a drop,” he said proudly — “Not a drop will slip into the body of the ship, even when it’s riding deep in the water. Our builders — my builders — are the best in the world!” A forest of oblique wooden poles supported the body of the closest ship. The sun threw stripes of black shadow that slid in arcs down the reddish wood. “What I like best is to see a launch at high tide. When everything is ready, they knock away the supports and the new ship glides into the river. That’s a very festive time,” he assured her. “Generally I’m sitting in a canopy chair on the pier when it happens.” He smiled. “And everyone is drinking and cheering. What a sight!” 
She asked if she could come close to the shipyard, and Sebastian wrapped his face in cloth and asked her to hide her face too. She complied, and he gently pulled her kerchief and secured it around her ears. “If they see who I am,” he said, “we’ll be here for a week. And I — I have other plans. It wouldn’t be fair to them. They need official notification from the palace at least a week in advance if I’m coming. They have to get ready.” 
In their anonymity, they approached the boats. Nearby, a smith was forging nails over a bed of glowing coals. “May I touch the ship?” The question popped out by itself, echoing the emotion she’d felt many years before in the astronomer’s workroom when she first touched the wondrous loxodrome with her fingers. There she’d felt freedom, liberty, and equal privilege. But Sebastian recoiled. “Don’t you dare,” he cautioned her sternly. “You’d cause all hell to break loose! A woman touching an unfinished boat?” 
He spat twice to each side, but right away — seeing the anger in her glaring eyes — he regretted it. “Come on. I really don’t want anyone to notice who I am. I can’t be seen here without a proper entourage. Really. Let’s go before they find out it’s me.”
The next evening, he chose to ride out from the city walls and camp again — in an uncultivated area devoid of any uniqueness to recommend it. Not even an olive grove. Her disappointment showed. Entering town incognito was understandable. Prowling around the dockyards dressed in tatters and hiding their faces was understandable, too. But not even to sleep in a proper bed at some modest inn? 
He’d dismissed his bodyguards and sent them to find themselves beds right in town. They located a place where some voluble young women were also staying. Sebastian warned them not to drink too much and to keep their mouths shut. She wondered why she, unlike them, had to sleep in a tent again, alone in a random field, instead of inside the beautiful city. But Sebastian was adamant. 
“And another thing,” he added. “Tonight, when you go to sleep, stay fully dressed.” In response to the question that appeared on her face, he put a forefinger to his lips and said: “Shh...” Night fell. A full moon, in all its glory, swelled its cheeks above the hills of Oporto and was reflected in the Douro. The surface of the river held still as if under orders. Even the gulls stopped shrieking. The hoarse howls of jackals arose far away from time to time, interrupting the deep silence. The dormant city gleamed its magic sluggishly, trapping the twin moons between its riverbanks. Ginebra’s thoughts raced between them until she dozed off. 
“Ginebra. Get up, Ginebra. Shh, shh... Get up.” She forced her eyes open a bit. Sebastian was leaning over her. “Are you dressed the way I told you?” he asked quietly. She nodded. “Let’s go,” he said. They slipped silently out of the little tent. The full moon’s light showed that the king was carrying some short, acrid- smelling poles. Torches. He held her arm. “Come on.” They walked a few feet, seemingly without purpose. Sebastian kept checking their position with respect to the river and the sea until they were standing beneath an unusually large baobab tree. She could see a mound of stones, the ruins of some kind of building, a field of thorns, and nothing else. She was sure he was tricking her, and she demanded an explanation. But Sebastian merely crawled into a short, sunken arched space inside the ruined building and said gleefully, “It’s here!” 
“What’s here?” “Sit down.” He began to push and lift heavy stones out of his way, puffing with exertion as he set them aside. She began to suspect that the full moon had muddled his sanity. “Sebastian…” She was alarmed. Doubts ate at her. Aside from his physical handicap, did he also suffer from moonstruck madness? “Shh…” Almost unconsciously, she looked up at the stars and memorized the important elements of the map. Yes, she’d be able to relocate this place if ever necessary. But what was he trying to do? Sebastian labored for a long while. An entire mound of stones was silently displaced. Her thoughts wandered to his undersized arm. His moon-born mania and the jackals’ howls filled her with alarm and did nothing for her peace of mind. The sound of the stone moving was followed by the noise of wooden planks being dragged. 
She was breathing heavily by the time she heard: “Come here!” Sebastian pulled her into a dark hole. They bent over as low as they could, and he dragged something flat — it looked like a wooden door — into place above their heads to hide the entrance. Then she gathered he was trying to light a torch. The flame took hold well, and she saw to her astonishment that they were at the start of a tunnel. Its end was out of sight. “What is this?” “Wait. We’re not there yet.” 
They began to walk, and he held her tightly. His touch was more pleasant to her than ever. She enjoyed his daring and his exceptionality. He was always thinking and behaving in an unexpected way. It engrossed and enchanted her — and now more than ever, despite his strange manner. “We’re not where yet?” she asked, but he didn’t answer. They took five steps down the tunnel, which became steeper as they did. “Do you hear that?” 
“What am I supposed to hear?” But as she finished the question, she realized she heard water burbling from far away. “You’ve brought me to a well in the middle of the night? For what?” “Just be patient. Be patient.” They advanced slowly. She noticed that the floor of the tunnel was becoming regular and comfortable. The walls grew apart, and the tunnel turned into a broad cave. The sound of running water echoed toward them from the sides. Sebastian dramatically raised the torch above their heads — and she stopped, thunderstruck. Before her, beneath a tan granite ceiling, flowed a river that emerged from a dark orifice on her left, passed onward, and was swallowed into an archway on her right — black and smooth as a gigantic, endless snake. The black water forged on and on, lapping the rock with a hypnotizing sensuality. 
She couldn’t believe her eyes and leaned against the wall with one hand. The torchlight flickered on the water like a thousand glinting little eyes. The wall felt smooth. The granite had been dressed with masterful geometric precision. They were standing on a broad surface of stone, a sort of platform leveled carefully, and it opened even wider at the other side. Sebastian chuckled. 
“Welcome to the best-kept secret in the city of Oporto. A secret known only to kings. Even the mayor and the princess aren’t aware of it. This is the hidden source of the Rio da Vila. The Romans dug the river down to a depth of dozens of yards beneath their city of Portus Cale, which is where our country got the name Portugal. The river has been running for more than twelve hundred years without being seen. A few miles away, it powers a millstone inside a cellar next to the customs house, where Henry the Navigator lived. From there, it empties out undetected onto the floor of the Douro River, from beneath the surface, between Bishop’s Hill and the docks. Even Henry the Navigator never knew where the water came from. The river’s secret was handed down just like the crown. Only the members of the royal dynasty have had the privilege of standing here, where you are, to learn how to defend the city if one day the enemy tries to cut its water off.” 

Her heart pulsed with growing excitement. The significance of receiving these revelations from him was dawning on her. The peculiar sequence of events that he’d arranged was reaching its peak: his unexplained restraint regarding her body, the strange journey to Oporto with no suitable royal retinue, his violent reaction to the impropriety of João the archer, the covering of his face in public and his unwillingness to be recognized. 
The pieces fell into place all at once. He had placed his trust in her. “I knew that you —” her words were interrupted as his warm mouth sealed her lips with a kiss. Their tongues twined. He pressed his entire body to her in desire. His hands grasped her and plunged between the folds of her clothing. The torch fell and rolled aside, and they sank to the floor of the cave alongside the black water. 
She hesitated a moment and felt him impatiently tearing her clothes from her. Ginebra sighed, considered, and then yielded to him with a moan. The granite grotto filled with insatiable passion. 
When only an ember remained of the torch, Sebastian rolled across it. “We have to go back up. According to the royal tradition that says we have to come here on the night of the full moon, we also have only the time of one torch for our pleasure. The cave’s entrance must be hidden again before daylight. Let’s go!” 
They returned as they’d come. He pushed the wooden barrier off the opening, hopped out, turned around, and held out a hand to her. 

The moonlight put wrinkles of maturity and new responsibility into his young, enthusiastic face. She held her hand toward him, and Sebastian lowered his arm and pulled her up toward himself. When she was half out, her legs dangling, he paused, looked into her eyes, and said, “For you, I’ll conquer Jerusalem.” He paused again and then added: “And I’ll give it to the Jews.”

Monday, November 27, 2023

It's Monday - Robert Sells Talks About Gun Control! Together with Excerpt From Revelations

Ahh, yes. There were some more “mental health” problems recently… 6 deaths due to 4 more mass shootings. Oh, and 40 others hospitalized. Damn those mental health issues. Let’s see, that brings us up to 564 mass shooting just this year. Now, I know that Republicans have assured us that these tragedies have nothing to do with guns and everything to do with mental health issues. Sorry, but I don’t think we can ignore that guns play the major role in these deaths.

In 2021, 49,000 Americans died because of guns. In the European Union (about the same number of people as America), there were 6500 killed with guns. We have 7.5 times as many deaths by guns than the Europeans! Why? Because we have more guns!

The EU has 15.7 guns per 100 people. We have 121 guns per 100 people! Simple math points out that we have 7.7 times more guns than they do in the EU. That is why we have 7.5 times the number of gun deaths.

The Second Amendment guarantees our citizens the right to “bear arms”. No one wants to take that away. However, we have a serious problem with gun deaths. So, there is a need to regulate guns. Universal gun checks will not take away the right for a law-abiding citizen to own a gun. They will, however, reduce the number of felons or mentally-ill people from owning a gun. Red flag laws just make sense. If someone has a mental health issue or is threatening a wife, child, or someone else, then the government must protect other citizens from gun violence. Finally, assault-type weapons that are designed to kill humans should not be allowed. When they were restricted by the Brady law, gun deaths went down.

Let's pray that Republicans are willing to legislate new laws to protect us. Let’s make America great again by making America a safer place to live.

Just one Comment in Response... This last video shows "Kid Play" where a father has been teaching his daughter about shooting, introducing her to all types of guns... Claims the father, he is not politically motivated... Claims the girl, I can't think of anything else I plan to do with my life...
This is the America that has evolved over many years of unrestrained gun well as a total lack of concern for who gets killed by those toys that kids are playing with--from a young age to adults!
Jesus, Please call these children to You before they, too, walk the streets looking for a place to shoot people instead of tin cans...

Revelations: Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. Rev. 12:12
CHAPTER ONE Arecibo, Puerto Rico Present Day The gray-haired man brushed past the three graduate students who greeted him with “amazing”, “awesome”, “unbelievable” and a glass of champagne. He sat down on the chair and closest to the large computer monitor and studied the computer screen. Nimble fingers danced over the keyboard, and the screen came alive with numbers and symbols. His eyes widened and his face paled. Grim-faced, he rose and stepped toward the three graduate students who backed away, now frightened of the man who had been more like a grandfather than a boss.   The tiny female had been biting her nails, but now, with her former astronomy teacher so stern and inches from her face, she held her hands up to protect herself. Instead of striking her, he patted the pockets of her pants. “Dr. Wellman!” “Shut up,” he snapped and pushed past her to pat down the male beside her. “Your cell phones. Where are they?” “A—At the condo. At least for me,” replied the taller of the two male students as Dr. Wellman probed all his pockets. The third student, hands raised, came next. “No cell phones, sir. Per protocol.” After patting down the third student, Wellman took two steps to the corner of the room and checked the computer log of outgoing calls from the landline. The last call was to him. The only other call, an hour earlier, was to a pizza place. He turned and studied the eyes of the three students. The young woman was terrified. Good, he thought. The taller of the male students glared at him. Good. No shame. Nothing to hide. The other young man was simply bewildered, his eyes wide. Finally, Wellman gave a pent-up sigh of relief and wearily collapsed on the chair. Screeching sounds from outside broke the short silence. The students looked out the windows and saw black cars filling the driveway. They looked back at Dr. Wellman, his wrinkled face contorted into a pained expression. “I’m- I'm so sorry for what is about to happen.” Police officers poured into the small room, filling it with blue and black uniforms. They handcuffed all three students and pushed them out the door. The last thing Dr. Wellman heard was the young woman repeating the only two words she’d spoken since his arrival: “Dr. Wellman!” This time it was a call for help. He made no move to help her. Instead, he swiveled the chair around, found the daily log, and signed it. Then he stood and walked past the half dozen officers picking up books, papers, even waste paper baskets. From the cool control room of the Arecibo radio telescope, he emerged into the light of the hot, humid Puerto Rican afternoon. The police cars carrying his graduate students sped toward the airport. Two men in suits ignored him, went into the control room, and closed the door behind them. Dr. Wellman grunted. He was superfluous now. Police, carrying black bags filled with papers and books, marched past him and zoomed off in their respective cars. The last police car, lights blinking, had its back door wide open. A single police officer waited for him. “You ready, sir?” “Yup. Let’s go.”
One week later Colgate University, New York The applause in the auditorium subsided when the college provost raised his hands. He cleared his throat and spoke over the last die-hard clappers. “It is obvious from your applause that you rather enjoyed tonight’s presentation.” The clapping threatened to erupt anew, so he yelled into the microphone. “Dr. Worthington will now take questions from the floor.” Dozens of hands went up all at once. Astrophysicist Dr. Aster Worthington, the newly appointed director of the Hayden Planetarium, bright, blonde, and beautiful, smiled as she stepped back to the podium. She preferred engaging her audience personally and enjoyed this part of her presentation the most. Aster pointed to a teenage boy wildly waving his hand right in front of her. “Dr. Worthington, it has to be possible to travel between the stars. Think about how much exploration has progressed in just the last five hundred years. Columbus took months to cross the Atlantic. Now, we can fly across in just hours. We should be able do the same thing with space travel.” Her lecture, titled “The Myth of Interstellar Travel,” offered a flurry of exquisite photographs of stars and visual effects scaling the staggering size of the universe. Her intent was to persuade her audience that interstellar travel should not be on Man’s bucket list. But here it was again: the difficulty human minds had in comprehending the vastness of the universe. She sighed. Analogy, numbers, or just blow it off? Probably from some private school. Okay. Numbers.  “We are shackled by speed and time,” she began earnestly. “Go fast, and the energy needs are outrageously high. Go slow, and you spend centuries in your spaceship just getting to your nearest neighbor.” Her enthusiastic questioner rolled his eyes and scoffed, unconvinced. She didn’t expect him to accept her words. At least, not at first. Time for the first punch. “By using a tremendous amount of fuel, and a few, fortuitous gravity assists, the spaceship of the Juno Mission traveled 87,000 miles per hour. That’s over two million miles a day. It’s the fastest spaceship we have.” The boy beamed. “That’s what I mean,” he blurted. “We can go to the stars.” She gave him a sad smile, the kind a loving parent wore when first they told a child there was no Santa Claus. “How long would it take the Juno spacecraft, the fastest one we have, to reach the nearest star?” Before he could answer, Aster held up her finger, and she looked down like she was considering something. It was great theater, she knew. She paused a moment, biting down lightly on her bottom lip. In a conspiratorial voice, she leaned across the podium toward the teenager. “Let’s assume we develop more efficient fuel and considerably better rockets. Let’s also throw in… what, two or three extra gravity assists? Maybe that ninth planet that’s just been discovered far beyond Pluto and perhaps a large rogue planet between us and Alpha Centauri. They could provide more gravity assists. Anyway, just for the purposes of this discussion, let’s suppose the speed of our spacecraft is not just 87,000 miles per hour, but 200,000 miles per hour.” The young man’s eyes opened wide, and excited discussions bubbled up in the great hall. He nodded, leaning forward in his chair. “This new ship,” she continued, “Can travel over five million miles in a day. How long would it take this super-charged spaceship to arrive at the nearest star, a mere four light years away?” The boy eyed her suspiciously, sensing a trap. When he answered, his tone came out hesitant. “Maybe… a few years?” She shook her head. “Over three thousand years.” The boy deflated into his seat for a moment, letting out a rush of air. But youth is resilient: “We just have to go faster. Somehow.” Aster’s eyebrows rose. “Ahh, but remember the problem with going faster. It costs more energy. Suppose you go ten times faster. Now the trip will only take 300 years.” There were a few chuckles in the audience. “Unfortunately, the fuel requirement goes up as the square of the speed. So, the fuel required for this mission would be a hundred times more. A hundred times! That would be more fuel than we have spent on all previous missions combined in this century. And if you want to get our nearest neighbor, mind a few years...the energy output would be, well, enormous. More energy than man has used in the last two centuries.” Aster regarded the boy, a sympathetic frown on her face. “Spaceships zipping around the galaxy is a fantasy. It’s not real and never will be real. Depressing, I know. Distances in space are—” she spread out her arms, “astronomical.”